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How to Make Meaningful Design Decisions That Ignite Growth

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Kaleidoscope Executive Design Director Chris Collins shares Meaningful Aesthetics: Our Ultimate Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions

Equip yourself with tips and tools to make decisions that connect with users and ignite growth. Kaleidoscope Design Director Chris Collins shares best practices that will help you discover:
* A deeper understanding of aesthetics and why they matter
* How to embrace the design process to make exceptional design decisions
* Top methods for creating a user lens using Inspirational Design Targets (IDTs), Personas and more
* Actionable step-by-step tips to make informed decisions on behalf of users

Published in: Design
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How to Make Meaningful Design Decisions That Ignite Growth

  1. 1. MEANINGFUL AESTHETICS A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions Chris Collins | Director of Design, Kaleidoscope
  2. 2. Introduction Chapter 1: It’s Not Just Styling: In Defense of Aesthetics What Is Aesthetics? Why Aesthetics Matters Chapter 2: Understanding the Design & Innovation Process Embrace the Design Process Create the User Lens Generate Mood andTone Pieces DevelopTheme Boards Chapter 3: How to Make Meaningful Aesthetic Design Decisions Six ProvenTips from a Design Insider Conclusion References / Further Reading About Kaleidoscope Table of Contents © 2015 Kaleidoscope Image Credit: BALL CLOCK, George Nelson
  3. 3. Based on philosophical roots in ancient Greece, aesthetics is the science of how things are known by the senses and it plays a vital role in how people connect with products. In the fields of design and new product development, aesthetics can make or break product success. Yet despite its crucial importance, not enough time and energy is spent on aesthetic design decisions. In some cases, aesthetics may even be referred to as “eye candy” in various industries to connote the inconsequential nature of visual design, even though studies have shown a direct correlation between how we feel about objects and how well they work. So, why the disconnect? Mostly, it seems to be because the thinking behind aesthetic design is not always obvious and the resulting decisions aren’t easy.The thought and reasoning behind emotional design triggers can get lost. In contrast, decisions around human factors, cost targets and brand guidelines are comparatively black and white.Weighing aesthetics, or how things appeals to the senses, what we see, hear, taste and feel, leaves a lot more gray areas. So, as a person responsible for new product development, how do you guide the design direction and make—or help your team make—good decisions around how people “feel about” or “react to” your product or experience? In this guide, we’ll provide insider insights and simple steps to help you make rational design decisions that will lead to real connections with your users and growth for your company. Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions Introduction © 2015 Kaleidoscope
  4. 4. Chapter 1 It’s Not Just Styling: In Defense of Aesthetics Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions
  5. 5. © 2015 Kaleidoscope Aesthetics is our “affective domain response to an object or phenomenon.” Affective domain is our attitude, appreciation and emotion towards learning or engaging something.This can be contrasted with cognitive domain, which deals with the processes and measurable results of study—the practical ability to apply a method to intelligence. This definition of aesthetics highlights the funda- mental problem at hand for many decision-makers when it comes to aesthetics.The more we try to measure an element that is meant to tickle our emotional side, the more we risk diluting its irrational draw and excitement.This contradiction many times kills the spirit that aesthetics is to carry. This does not mean we cannot be rational in our thought process in creating aesthetics and in deciding the most meaningful path forward. We both can and should be rational about the process. As the advocate of the end user, it is our responsibility as designers and creators to ensure we stand up for them and speak on their behalf. What Is Aesthetics? How we define aesthetics, in terms of product design and development: • Aesthetics tells the story of the product. Aesthetics communicates who the product was built for and how it is intended to be used. It car- ries the brand promise. Aesthetics shapes what we understand and feel about the product or experience and leads to our response toward it. • Aesthetics is one of the most vital elements of the product’s first impression (first moment of truth). It also forms the basis of the day-to-day impression with user interactions in the total design (second moment of truth). As such, it is one of the most important decisions to be made in the creation of a product. "Aesthetics tells the story of the product." Image Credit: EAMES LOUNGE CHAIR AND OTTOMAN, Charles & Ray Eames Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions
  6. 6. The design community has long debated the relationship between form and function and the role of aesthetics. Here are some schools of thought: • “Form follows function” is the commonly used saying coined by American architect Louis Sullivan, who later attributed the core idea to Roman architect MarcusVitruvius Pollio. This essentially means aesthetics follows the intention for which the product was created. This methodology, by definition, puts aesthetics in a subordinate role. "Attractive things work better" Why Aesthetics Matters • In contrast, the architect Frank LloydWright stated that form and function “should be one, joined in a spiritual union.” • As a rebuttal or clarification of The Design of EverydayThings, where many felt he discounted the importance of aesthetics, human-centered design expert Donald Norman outlined evidence that “attractive things work better” in Emotional Design:WhyWe Love (or Hate) EverydayThings. Norman stated that a “positive affect makes people more tolerant of minor difficulties and more flexible and creative in finding solutions. Products designed for more relaxed, pleasant occasions can enhance their usability through pleasant, aesthetic design. Aesthetics matter.” • Similarly, when it comes to web design, according to a UX Myths article, results fromThe Stanford Credibility Project study show a “clear link between solid design and website credibility.” • These connections between aesthetics and actual usability are bolstered by the well-estab- lished “halo effect” phenomenon.This form of confirmation bias is defined inWikipedia as “the tendency for an impression created in one area to influence opinion in another area.”The same can be said in the negative, called the "horns effect", where “if the observer dislikes one aspect of something, they will have a negative predisposition toward everything about it.” Since design is arguably the strongest influencer of a first impression, this is the aspect that is likely to be judged. — Donald Norman Image Credit:THE GUGGENHEIM, Frank LloydWright Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions © 2015 Kaleidoscope
  7. 7. Chapter 2 Understanding the Design & Innovation Process Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions
  8. 8. Embrace the Design Process For decision-makers, the first step to making purposeful aesthetic decisions is to take a walk in the designer’s shoes and embrace a willingness to follow and understand the design process. As you make design decisions, trust the designer’s core credo to advocate for the users’ needs.Then, affix the users’ needs as your North Star or guide. Challenge your team to do the same. The designer’s process to make targeted aesthetic design solutions includes examining brand personality, technical constraints, cross industry design trends, the function or purpose of the product, fundamental design principles and user triggers such as desires, emotion and familiarity. From a design perspective, it is important to estab- lish a solid targeted design direction via an overall aesthetic strategy.This ensures a focused effort on a specific target and creates a measuring stick when the editing process kicks in. Next, we’ll highlight methods from the designer’s toolkit. This will lay the foundation for taking that walk in the designer’s shoes for making rational design decisions. “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” — Yogi Berra Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions © 2015 Kaleidoscope
  9. 9. Create the User Lens One toolkit essential is to create a user lens using Inspirational DesignTargets (IDTs). IDTs are essentially exaggerated and un-quantified personas. Based on more than just "hard" research data, IDTs allow us to “soup up” the personality and behaviors to enhance their characteristics.These are personas that pack a punch.They describe experiences using context, motivation and emotion. Here’s how to create an IDT: • Gather inputs for the Inspirational Design Target (IDT), such as segmentation models, psychographics, brand audits, opportunity maps, identified user needs, pain points and defined problem statements. • Build a narrative around a fictitious user’s life, family, behaviors, shopping habits, food, etc. This is more about personal rather than demo- graphic segmentation and it is likewise more about individual and specific behaviors rather than psychographic or behavioral segmentation. The goal is to make the IDTresemble a real person as much as possible. We want to refer to a person versus a broad idea, such as “Sienna” instead of “Female Millennial #1.” • Paint a picture through the IDT of a “person” with whom the entire team across the develop- ment process can have empathy.We want to see the world through the eyes of our user. • Generate visual IDT boards that tell the story of our target person. Some examples below. Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions © 2015 Kaleidoscope
  10. 10. Generate Mood & Tone The next step in the design process is to create visual representations to drive the aesthetic choices. Here’s how: • Boil down the Inspirational Design Targets (IDT's) to their core essence. Extract key characteristics of the IDT, and likewise draw out the main personalities and goals of the IDT's into a visual representation using words and images. • Determine analogous products. Collect other products this IDTpurchases and aspires to purchase. • Analyze and synthesize patterns, styles, feelings and common approaches to the way that they choose products, set goals or view life, for example. • Generate mood boards. Mood boards generate an overall tone for the aesthetic direction and typically consist of a collage of images, text and samples. Use anything to help set the style and mood of the design story you prepare to tell. Visually, this can be shown in various ways, such as through a color palette, typography, photography, analogous products, overall layout and graphic design and copy. Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions © 2015 Kaleidoscope
  11. 11. Develop Theme Boards Based on the style and tone developed in the mood boards, the designer visually shows overall design themes that will tell the story of the design. This includes these areas: • Form languages • Detail languages • Material choices • Texture choices DesignThemes are part of the overall design strategy.They visualize characteristics and attributes we want the product to express through real world examples.With the aesthetic expression of the product now known, this approach creates an efficient and focused tool the designer can use to align stakeholders on downstream explorations. Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions © 2015 Kaleidoscope
  12. 12. Greg is a fast follower. He appreciates what technology can do to help him be more efficient—allowing more family time, more time for himself and more time for his DIYprojects.Technology is a tool for him, it’s not an interest for him. Meet Greg Here’s an abbreviated example to illustrate how a tool like an Inspirational DesignTarget (IDT) can lead to aesthetic explorations: IDT I D T S U M M A R Y M O O D & T O N E D E S I G N T H E M E Busy, open-minded, not tech-savvy, family-oriented, tinkerer, has appreciation for doing it himself. Approachable, simple, clean, craft, durable. Reduced interface, no-nonsense direct forms, human and inviting, real materials, high quality and well-crafted details, clear and simple touch points and iconography. IDT–GREG Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions © 2015 Kaleidoscope
  13. 13. Chapter 3 How to Make Meaningful Aesthetic Design Decisions Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions
  14. 14. Six Proven Tips from a Design Insider Now that we understand some essential components of how designers make aesthetic choices, how then, can we equip decision-makers to make informed choices on behalf of the user? In short, become comfortable with your discomfort.Trust the designer and the design process. Ask the right questions. Enter the world of the designer. Constantly research and refresh your knowledge of design processes. Here are some tips: Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions © 2015 Kaleidoscope
  15. 15. Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions © 2015 Kaleidoscope When the design team lays out a design strategy, open your mind and follow its logic.The team might show a mood board, an IDTor persona board and a strategy for how to move forward. If the product is tailored for someone who values high-quality, high-tech products and devices, does the proposed design strategy support that thinking? Ask questions and listen to why the design team has created that specific design strategy. Follow the flow. 1. Image Credit: 8-INCH LCDTV, Naoto Fukasawa for Plus Minus Zero
  16. 16. Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions © 2015 Kaleidoscope Remember to look through the lens of the user, not your own preferences. Hone the team’s focus on your user.Test yourself too. Are you thinking from your preferences or your user’s?Try techniques like virtual role-play to see the world from the user’s eyes. Check your love for blue at the door. 2. Image Credit: RECORD PLAYER, Dieter Rahms
  17. 17. Designers are trained in a world of questions and critiques. Poking holes in design concepts is a healthy and expected process to ensure a well- thought-out outcome. Designers are also trained to be advocates for your users as well. Ask open- ended questions to understand the thinking in the designer’s mind, such as: “What about the solution will our target user respond to?” or “What elements do you feel help tell the story?” Encourage a constructive conversation. 3. Image Credit: COFFEE ANDTEA MAKER, Naoto Fukasawa Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions © 2015 Kaleidoscope
  18. 18. Ask designers to share more information about the user. Being user-centered drives good designers. Understanding user needs informs and inspires emotional connections to holistic product experiences. If you center the discussion on this, you may uncover new insights that connect to people’s true needs. Do not be afraid to ask questions like, “Tell me, how does this meet the needs of the user?” Ask foundational questions. 4. Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions © 2015 Kaleidoscope Kaleidoscope assistedWhirlpool with the design of this beautiful, clean aesthetic that secured key retailer placement and sold 40,000 units in three months.
  19. 19. The goal of the critique is to take in all input and leverage knowledge of the user and their intended usage to make decisions that will serve—and delight—that user. Consider your brand, its promise and its aspirations. Use that as a guide as well. Trust your design team and the process.The more you work through it together, the more the best design direction will become apparent. Keep the goal of the critique in mind. 5. Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions © 2015 Kaleidoscope Image Credit: LEICA DIGITAL RANGEFINDER CAMERA, Jony Ive and Marc Newson
  20. 20. In the design world, there is a long-standing schism between data and instinct. Many designers are driven by the belief that some people (namely themselves) are gifted with an innate design sense. They hype gut instinct.This may be because the consumer does not always know what they want. The famous Henry Ford quote “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse” illustrates this thinking.The influx of research and resulting data can be frustrating to a designer who, incidentally, was trained and hired not to give customers what they asked for but to show them what they need. Learn to balance data and instinct. 6. From my twenty years of experience in designing, shepherding design and driving design decisions, I have seen the importance of data and learned that it is not a replacement for instinct. Data can be an indicator. But forcing a measurement around design strategies can lead to a direction that contradicts your initial goal. Some tips within a tip: • Study and channel lessons from business leaders who are advocates for growing gut instinct, such as: • JackWelsh’s “Straight from the Gut” leadership style as chronicled in numerous articles and books • Steve Job’s nearly mythological approach to instinct and the decision- making process including his famous quote, “It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want" • Henry Mintzberg's thoughts on business and management including theories that strategic thinking "is reliant on intuitive processes and a feel for what is right" • Use research and data to grow your instinct around aesthetic decision-making. • Research and study data, but always use your informed instinct to make your gut decision. Gut gives you a personal, nontransferable, value-based decision that is in harmony with the mindset of aesthetics. Image Credit: DSX SIDE CHAIR, Charles & Ray Eames Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions
  21. 21. Conclusion When it comes to design decisions, those involving aesthetics are among the most challenging. Since they appeal to emotions and core human triggers, they are difficult to quantify.Though this is a challenge, these aesthetic decisions powerfully impact the emotional connection a person has with a product, while establishing credibility and communicating function. So although it may seem daunting, it is not impossible. Open yourself up to following the design process, challenge your team and be open to conversations.The way forward will become clear particularly when you focus on the user’s needs. By always keeping the user top of mind, you will make rational decisions that have meaning. Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions © 2015 Kaleidoscope
  22. 22. References “‘Form Follows Function’ – An unclear design principle” by Andreas Burghart, Centigrade http://www.centigrade.de/blog/en/article/form-follows-function-an-unclear-design-principle/ “Frank Lloyd Wright and the Principles of Organic Architecture” by Kimberly Elman http://www.pbs.org/flw/legacy/essay1.html “Myth #25: Aesthetics are not important if you have good usability” by Zoltán Gócza, UX Myths http://uxmyths.com/post/1161244116/myth-25-aesthetics-are-not-important-if-you-have-good-us Stanford Web Credibility Research http://credibility.stanford.edu/ “Halo Effect,” Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_effect Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things by Don Norman http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/emotion_design_at.html More Management Theories from Jobs and Mintzberg: http://www.managementtoday.co.uk/news/1155928/Relying-intuition---always-trust-gut-feelings http://www.mbsportal.bl.uk/taster/subjareas/busmanhist/mgmtthinkers/mintzberg.aspx Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions © 2015 Kaleidoscope
  23. 23. About Kaleidoscope By focusing on improving life for people, we create products and experiences that grow businesses from our expertise at the intersection of consumer insights, technology and health and wellness. CHRIS COLLINS is the Director of Design at Kaleidoscope, an innovation and product design firm headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. Are your product development efforts building connections with users? CALL OR EMAIL ME to see if a Product Design Audit is right for you. Chris Collins DIRECTOR OF DESIGN ccollins@kascope.com 1.800.930.5793 Meaningful Aesthetics: A Guide to Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Design Decisions © 2015 Kaleidoscope

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